(Adds details on case, KGHM comments)
SANTIAGO, March 16 (Reuters) - A Chilean court has ordered port operator Antofagasta Terminal Internacional to temporarily suspend operations at a second copper stockpiling warehouse after high levels of heavy metals were found nearby, a move that could impact copper exports from the world’s No. 1 producer.
The environmental court had already asked the port operator last week to suspend activities at another stockpiling warehouse for 30 days because of potential health risks from particles detected in the atmosphere in the surrounding city of Antofagasta.
“We received authorization to suspend (the warehouse) Friday evening, and today (Monday) we will notify the company,” Chile’s environmental regulatory agency told Reuters.
The court ordered both warehouses shut for an initial 30 days, which could be extended.
Local residents campaigning against the warehouses say they want them shut as part of a string of disputes between the mining industry, crucial to Chile’s economy, and communities that claim their environment is being polluted.
The warehouses are used by small producers and the Sierra Gorda copper mine, which is co-owned by Europe’s No.2 copper producer KGHM and Japan’s Sumitomo.
Shipments from Sierra Gorda were not impacted by the suspension, KGHM said.
“For the time being we are carrying out the shipping through a different port,” KGHM’s press office said.
Large copper miners such as state-run Codelco and Escondida, controlled by BHP Billiton , use different ports for their shipments.
The environmental regulator does not have any other open cases against port operators and described the situation at Antofagasta Terminal Internacional’s warehouses as “unique” due to the high number of residential complaints.
Suspension of operations at the first warehouse was not expected to impact copper exports from Chile, though it will affect the stockpiling of material used by a Glencore smelter. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Anthony Esposito; Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Paul Simao and Alan Crosby)